No, Mike Huckabee Wasn't Speaking "Off the Cuff"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 24 2014 10:41 AM

No, Mike Huckabee Wasn't Speaking "Off the Cuff"

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This guy chooses his words more carefully than Rick Santorum realizes.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Catherine Thompson captures some comments by Rick Santorum on Crossfire, made in the wake of Mike Huckabee's "libido" speech.

I think what Gov. Huckabee was saying is that we've seen an unprecedented assault by the Democrats against Republicans claiming there is a war on women. ... I think Gov. Huckabee would probably have phrased it differently. Mike speaks off the cuff, as some of us are known to do, and probably would have chose different words to communicate that.

This is basically the opposite of true. Like I mentioned yesterday, the RNC speech was only the second time in a week that Huckabee went on a riff about how Democrats were talking to women as if they couldn't control their lady urges. From his weekend Fox News show:

The ridiculous claim that a pro-life position is a "war on women" is an insult to the millions of women who make extraordinary sacrifices for their children. For Democrats to reduce women to beggars for cheap government funded birth control is demeaning to the women that I know who are far more complicated than their libido and the management of their reproductive system.

From yesterday: 

If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.

And at 9:16 p.m., the MikeHuckabee.com email list got a message from the governor, asking for donations to Huck PAC, and making a faux-apology for all those liberals he offended. The subject was "Guess what? (urgent)."

I am apparently the worst conservative ever or at least the most annoying one according to the left wingers in Washington today. My remarks to the RNC today were immediately jumped on and blown sky high by hand-wringing, card carrying liberals from coast to coast, some of them in the media.
What did I say? Here you go:
"Our party stands for the recognition of the equality of women and the capacity of women. That’s not a war on them, it’s a war for them. If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America, because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be."
Guess what liberals? If you can't stand to look at yourself in the mirror, then get ready for more of this talk, because conservatives are going to continue to fight back against your destructive policies towards women and families.

Yeah, not really eating his words, and it wouldn't matter if he was. As Bill Scher reports, Huckabee, as governor, had no problem with mandating contraceptive coverage. In 2014, as a culture warrior in the age of Obamacare, Huckabee is describing a contraceptive coverage mandate as a pander to women that assumes they're promiscuous—that's actually hilariously at odds with how female contraception works, or who uses it.

UPDATE: Matt Lewis argues that the media is at fault for taking Huckabee out of context, because two reporters in the room -- one with CNN, one with MSNBC -- contracted the quote, and made it sound like Huckabee himself thought women were "helpless without Uncle Sugar." Pretty careless, but quickly corrected, and Lewis's assertion that the rest of the media reported on the contracted quote isn't backed up by much.

He quotes the Washington Post for evidence that “Democrats distributed [the comments] far and wide." But you can see how many retweets these two items got -- 18 for MSNBC, 124 for CNN. My not-wrong version was retweeted 62 times. Two reporters actually gchatted me to ask for the audio file, as this was happening. The DNC's press release attacking Huckabee offered only a quote from Debbie Wasserman Schultz: "Mike Huckabee has no idea what he’s talking about. If this is the GOP rebrand a year later then all they’ve gotten is a year older." The DNC's response video quoted the whole line, starting with "if the Democrats want to insult women..."

It's just wrong to blame the media; it just misreads the reason for the controversy. The full Huckabee quote assumes that women wouldn't want their insurance to cover contraceptives if the Democrats didn't tell them they were unable to control their libido.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.